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IEP Panel Discussion on: „The Impact of the British Referendum on the European Union“

Funda Tekin, Mathias Jopp, Iain Begg and Peter Ptassek

Dr. Peter Ptassek, Director for Community Policies and Strategic Coordi­nation at the Federal Foreign Office, and Prof. Iain Begg from the European Institute at London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) intro­duced the topic „The Impact of the British Refer­endum on the European Union” on July 12th, 2016 at the Repre­sen­tation of the European Commission in Berlin. Dr. Funda Tekin from the Centre inter­na­tional de formation européenne (CIFE) gave a comment and intro­duction to the debate. Bernhard Schnittger, Deputy Head of the Repre­sen­tation of the European Commission in Germany, held a short welcome speech. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, Director of the Institut für Europäische Politik, moderated the event.

In the beginning Ptassek voiced the expec­tation that Great Britain should trigger the formal retirement process according to Art 50 TEU as soon as possible. This would constitute the base for any further GB-EU-negoti­a­tions in the future. He opined that the positive aspect of the current situation is that the EU returned to the centre of public debate after a long time and the impor­tance of the advan­tages of the European Union are getting back into common awareness.

As Begg explained, nobody in Great Britain expected this result of the refer­endum. Cameron failed to convey a strong argument against Eurosceptic forces, especially in his own party.  The Pro-Brexit team seized the moment to promote their own aims. Never­theless, even the Leave camp was surprised about the “victory”, since they had no strategy how to implement the Brexit. He summa­rized that the refer­endum produced a “lose-lose-situation”, which has negative economical and political effects for Great Britain as well as for the EU.

Tekin commented on the presen­ta­tions by outlining chances and risks emerging from the refer­endum. She mentioned that Europe has been in a state of crisis for years and empha­sized the impor­tance of differ­en­tiated integration as crisis management tool. This approach, she postu­lated, would be essential to keep the EU capable of acting and to counteract centrifugal forces.

In the following discussion, questions from the audience addressed the topic of the “domino-effect” and the possi­bility that other EU-member states like Hungary or the Nether­lands or even France would follow the British example. The panel had the common opinion that this possi­bility exists but its likelihood is very low. Further questions inquired about the Scottish perspective and the British foreign and security policy in the future. Begg responded that a Scottish separation is very unlikely due to economical and fiscal reasons.

By Paul Freilinger